More than 10,000 small-business representatives have signed a petition by the liberal group MoveOn.org that calls on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support "clean energy" jobs legislation on Capitol Hill.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering a bill that would cap U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases at 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. The bill from committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) would also require the United States to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020, according to a deal brokered by committee Democrats yesterday (Greenwire, May 12).
The Chamber of Commerce -- the nation's largest business association, with more than 3 million members -- charged in a recent report that emissions reductions on such a scale would raise energy prices, shrink the economy and reduce household spending power in coming decades (E&ENews PM, April 28). Chamber officials have also warned that U.S. EPA would be subject to "countless lawsuits" if it regulates greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
MoveOn, however, views the Waxman-Markey bill as a boon for the wind turbine makers and other "clean energy" jobs that would presumably replace those within carbon-intensive industries. The liberal advocacy group's petition -- which was signed by 650 people who identify themselves as chamber members -- charges that the business lobby is "doing the dirty work of powerful oil and coal companies instead of doing what's best for the economy."
MoveOn officials handed the 250-page petition to Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, during an energy policy forum today in Washington. Chamber officials did not respond to requests for comment.
"We're asking them to change their position of lobbying against the bill," said Joe Guggenheim, a signer of the petition and owner of Simon Publications, a Bethesda, Md.-based book publisher.
Guggenheim, who is not a chamber member, estimated that shipping and printing accounts for about 80 percent of his business costs. Fossil fuel prices might rise with a carbon cap, he conceded, but renewable energy costs would come down as their installed capacity grows.
Kelly Parsons, owner of KP Marketing Solutions, a Tampa, Fla.-based company that offers clients "branding solutions" and other services, said she received MoveOn's petition in an e-mail. She signed it but conceded she does not know much about the Waxman-Markey bill, which the MoveOn petition refers to only as "the clean-energy jobs" bill.
"I'm for anything that creates more jobs and a better economy," said Parsons, a member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
MoveOn campaign director Noah Winer explained that all of the group's "clean-energy jobs" organizing work is in support of the Waxman-Markey bill and President Obama's broader energy and climate agenda.
He claimed that more than 20,000 small-business representatives signed a separate MoveOn petition that was sent to members of Congress last month. The petitions show that the chamber is "out of alignment" with its diverse membership, Winer said.
"There is a growing divide," he added. "This is yet another group that says the chamber is not representing us well."
In recent weeks, blue-chip companies Nike Inc. and Johnson & Johnson -- which are members of separate corporate coalitions that support cap and trade -- have pressed chamber executives to acknowledge their positions on climate policy (E&ENews PM, May 8).
Nike, a member of the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition, supports the passage of "positive climate change and clean-energy legislation," company spokeswoman Kate Meyers said in an e-mail.
"One of the reasons we instigated the formation of BICEP was to give consumer companies a clear and powerful voice on this issue," she added.